Employee relations is, in essence, the old-fashioned term for human resources or personnel management. The employee relations officer was the internal go-between for employers and the workers' unions. While human resources has come to include numerous other areas such as talent management and equality and diversity, the role of the employee relations officer remains similar to its original incarnation.
It's not just older organisations, or sectors where unions have remained powerful, that employ employee relations officers. Many organisations require employee relations officers as advisers on specific areas of employment law, to negotiate during union or employee group disputes and to ensure the wider workforce is aware of company policies and procedures.
Day-to-day tasks can include:
- maintaining employment policies
- ensuring legal compliance
- managing employment tribunal cases
- advising the HR team
- dealing with employee relations issues
- managing issues such as long-term absence
- maintaining good relations and consulting with trade unions
This can be a very rewarding role, ensuring the best outcomes for both the business and the employees, but at times of disputes it can be difficult.
A CIPD qualification, or further education with a strong focus on employment law, will be required. You'll need to be a good negotiator, personable and able to get on with most people. Strong problem solving and analysis skills would also be helpful. Any HR experience would be useful, especially in a sector where unions have a big influence on working conditions.
You can research employment law and legislation and get an introduction to trade unions on GOV.UK or via the Department for Work and Pensions.